B. Rosie Lerner
Consumer Horticulturist


Check out Rosie's book:Possum in the Pawpaw Tree





Question and Answer

Q. What is the value of cattails in drainage ditches? I have heard that they clog up the water drainage, which can contribute to ditches overflowing, etc. Recently I heard that I should leave them in the ditch, as they help absorb the water? Do I leave them or pull them out? And why?

A. Cattail is native throughout much of the U.S. and provides an important role in wetland ecology, but its aggressive nature quickly forms dense populations. Cattails choke out other native species, reduce soil oxygen and microbial activity, and hinder water movement in drainage ditches. Cattails are very difficult to control once established. For more information, see Purdue Extension publications "Identifying and Managing Aquatic Vegetation" at and "Aquatic Plant Management" at


Q. This flower stands about 5 feet tall. The flower blooms for about 1-2 days, then falls off. The seeds came in a package of dill seed by some mystery. Only a few of the dill came up, but have several of these pretty flowers. Can you tell me what they are?

A. This is one of the Hibiscus species; the foliage and flower appear to be the scarlet rosemallow, known botanically as Hibiscus coccineus. A tender perennial, this species is native to wetland areas of the Southeastern U.S. but may overwinter in a protected area of your garden, if provided consistent moisture.

Ash flower gall

Q. We have a green ash tree in our yard. This fall we noticed nuts on it. Is this something unusual? They look a lot like hickory nuts. Are they edible?

A. Ash trees do not produce nuts, but they do frequently develop galls, which could be mistaken as nuts. The ash flower gall is actually caused by an eriophyid mite, which causes male ash flowers to form round, greenish galls that eventually become dark brown or black and woody. These galls can remain on the tree for one or more years and become especially noticeable in fall, when the ash leaves drop. While this gall generally does not harm the tree, it is rather unsightly. The galls are not edible as far as I know! Additional info can be found at


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox,